I’ve been playing a game called Arc Rise Fantasia for review. That “for review” bit is important because the game isn’t good and I would have stopped playing after 10 minutes if I had a choice in the matter. Its flaws are too numerous to mention here in full; suffice to say, the dialogue is inane, voice acting is terrible, and even the main character seems bored by the story. And yet, after about five hours it got “better.” I say better in quotes because the game itself didn’t change at all, everything that was bad about it remained bad, rather my perceptions changed. I got used to the dialogue and acting, and against all odds the characters started to grow on me.
That is until I reached the halfway point and the story reached its peak of stupidity. Some major stuff happened between bouts of exposition that should have been explained long ago, and I was double-crossed. By four teammate. In less than two minutes. Mix that melodrama with the bad acting and by the end I was laughing at the absurdity of it all. I was reminded how dumb the game really is.
So what happened to me during that middle section? Why did I suddenly come to forgive the many bad design choices? I think I was suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. For reference, Stockholm Syndrome is when a hostage starts to have positive feelings for his captor. I think the same thing often happens to gamers when we play a bad game, to a lesser degree of course.
It’s all about justification. We know a game has flaws, glaring flaws, but we’ll continue to play out of some sense of obligation. Maybe you bought it and don’t want to admit you wasted your money. Maybe you want to get that 100-point achievement or platinum trophy, or maybe you just don’t like leaving games unfinished. No matter your reason, you’re not playing because it’s fun (and we’ve all done this at some point, admit it), but to justify your continued time with the game you have to convince yourself that it is fun. Or at the very least not awful. So suddenly the voice acting will become bearable, or you’ll just mute the TV and forget the problem even exists.
Thankfully I was able to snap out of my self-induced delusions and see Arc Rise Fantasia for the embarrassment it really is, but now I feel compelled to go through my game library and take a cold, hard look at the games I remember so fondly. I was able to escape the clutches of Arc Rise Fantasia, but is my mind still being held captive by some other cruel game?
No game is perfect, and I think if you can’t find at least one thing to ridicule about a game you love you might be suffering from Gamer Stockholm Syndrome. I will sing the praises of BioShock 2 until my voice gives out, but why the hell does every Little Sister look the same? I love Mass Effect 2 like others love Star Wars, but being able to bring Legion onto the Flotilla is an insulting disregard for the game’s mythology. Uncharted 2 is one of the best games ever made, but fuck that goddamn tank. Shadow of the Colossus is a masterpiece, but…but…but…
So, GameHounds community, what games have given you Stockholm Syndrome?